Zille spurns ID olive branch

In a surprise move Independent Democrats (ID) caucus leader Simon Grindrod this week came out in support of Cape Town mayor Helen Zille “as an individual” and as a city mayor under an executive committee system with more than “ribbon-cutting” powers.

Grindrod said he had met Zille this week to express the ID’s continued support for her “as an individual” and to “settle once and for all” the perception that the ID had voted more consistently with the ANC than the DA on council issues.

However, Zille appeared to rule out such an alliance, saying the DA would stand by its existing coalition partners.

And in another development that underscores the discomfort felt by the ANC’s allies over its tactics in Cape Town, Cosatu’s provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, declared the federation was suspicious of Western Cape local government minister Richard Dyantyi’s intentions.
This was despite the fact that the unions supported more inclusive city government.

Dyantyi has given Zille notice that he intends replacing Cape Town’s current executive mayor system with an executive committee, sidelining her and giving the ANC, in alliance with the ID, a majority of seats.

“There is an ethical issue. If you use legal trickery to get into power it’s not good for democracy,” Ehrenreich said. “Our question is why there was a five-month delay in doing this? If it had been done after the election in March, we would have supported it.”

The fact that it had taken so long for Dyantyi to make his move was indicative of the split between the Western Cape government and ANC structures in the province, he added.

Ehrenreich met the ANC’s provincial leadership after Dyantyi’s move was criticised by the Western Cape’s largest trade union, the Cosatu-affiliated Southern African Clothing and Texile Workers Union (Sactwu).

He said: “There was no consultation on this with coalition partners and Sactwu was right to take the position they did. We stand by them. We met [the ANC leadership] to say that we want to be included in a key strategic issue. They accepted this and agreed they would consult us in future.”

Ehrenreich said the matter would be discussed at Cosatu’s provincial congress this weekend, where a decision would be made.

Grindrod’s proposal appears to envisage granting Zille some executive powers as mayor if a committee system is imposed on the city.

However, the University of the Western Cape’s community law department said his offer is premature. In terms of the Municipal Systems Act it would fall upon the majority parties in the reconstituted 10-member executive committee—the DA and the ANC—to decide on the mayor’s powers, and the council would have to vote its approval. The ANC is considered unlikely to support a special dispensation for Zille.

And her office responded that the DA would not abandon its current ruling coalition partners—including the ACDP and the Africa Muslim Party—and was preparing to test Dyantyi’s challenge in the high court. “Our legal team is ready to proceed,” said mayoral spokesperson Robert MacDonald.

Dyantyi’s office has sent letters to the City of Cape Town and the South African Local Government Association, giving them 30 days to make written submissions on the proposed change to the form of government.

Ordinary Capetonians will then have a further 30 days to make their voices heard.

Speaking after a press conference this week, Grindrod added that although the ID had always favoured the executive committee system it would support the testing of the constitutionality of Dyantyi’s decision.

“There are two separate issues here. We have always believed in the executive committee system, but if there are concerns about the way it is being introduced we will support testing this in the courts and will accept the finding.

“I want to set the record straight that our voting record in council, in the sub-councils and in portfolio committees speaks for itself. We have voted with the DA more than three times than with the ANC,” he said.

Grindrod insisted it was not a done deal “that the ANC and the ID would seize power. Exco also has the power to delegate powers to [Zille] as a mayor and we would support that. She would not just end up as a ribbon cutter,” he said.

ANC provincial chairperson, James Ngculu said the issue had been on the ANC’s agenda since the local elections in March, but Dyantyi had to make the decision in his own time.

This, he said, was in order “to respect a separation of powers between government and party as prescribed in the Constitution”.

Neither Dyantyi nor his spokesperson, Vusi Tshose, was available for comment.

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